Fairy Tale

Two nights ago at dinner, my children asked me to tell them a story from my childhood:

Once upon a time, in the ancient days of the last millennium [about 1980], your father was a young scholar and an adviser in the court of King Grandpa and Queen Grandma. This was long before the advent of The Home Depot and King Grandpa, the wise and powerful ruler of the kingdom of Our House, sat smoking his pipe and gazing at the lands beyond his castle window where the evil Wood Lot, and its legions of Saplings, had been staging forays against the back yard lawn, slowly and imperceptibly encroaching on his sovereign demesne. He decided to make war on the Saplings, before the Queen his wife could find him and give him something useful to do. He called two of his sons, selecting them from his brood of princes for their lack of self-preservation and exceptional nearness to hand.

First they ransacked the royal armory and soon rode forth to battle with a ladder, an extension cord, and a rusty hack saw. King Grandpa propped his ladder against a twenty foot tall Sapling and, hoisting his coil of extension cord, he mounted the ladder halfway up the slender trunk. He made one end of it fast to the tree and, tossing the other end to your Uncle, he directed him to pull with all his might and slacketh not. He then incited your other Uncle, commanding him to attack the base of the trunk with the rusty hack saw forthwith. Then King Grandpa, hurling invective from the top of the ladder, pushed against the trunk from the top of the ladder with might and main.

The ensuing and colorful invective, floating through the loopholes of the keep, attracted the attention of Her Majesty the Queen. From her perch in the royal tower, Queen Grandma looked forth and witnessed the battle from a window, whereupon she immediately summoned her royal adviser [your father] to her side.

“You called, Your Majesty,” said the brown-nosing adviser.

“Adviser,” she said, “my eyesight is not what it once was. Cast your glance out the window and pray tell me who are yonder stooges in the back yard?”

“Why, your majesty … it is, er, the King, your husband … and my brothers.”

The Queen pursed her lips and frowned. “I thought as much. And what are yonder addle-pates attempting to do? Slay themselves and bankrupt the kingdom with hospital bills?”

“Verily, madam, it would seem so. However,” said the adviser, taking a more careful look, “I have knowledge of that particular hack saw, dulled from years of quarrying garden bricks in the carport. It is my considered opinion that yon hacksawing is far more likely to start a friction fire than to make that Spaling deviate one inch from its angle of ascent.”

“Ah,” said the royal queen, “I didst wonder which of my faithful servants had been vandalizing the garden bricks and trodding red dust into the house. Be certain, adviser, we shall speak of this another time. For now, please sally forth and say to yonder idiots that the Queen commands they cease and desist before our neighbors spy them and we become a source of mirth in Glen Court, and their minstrels make mockery of us.”

King Grandpa and his vassals returned  from battle, having failed to fell a single enemy, and yet strangely ebullient. When asked, the king made it known that it had never been his purpose to decimate a single tree, but rather to impart wisdom to his princes by his fine example. And it became a saying in the kingdom thereafter, that you should always tackle a job by yourself first, to truly understand the value of the professional you later hired to fix the mess you made.